Living: Links to organizations and resources that will help you live a more sustainable life at home while saving money.

> The Comfortable, Efficient Home
> Clean lawns, quiet mowing
> Lighting
> Water & Hot Water
> Flappin' in the Breeze
> Healthy Homes
>Renewable Energy for the Home

See also Community Partners| Placemaking Partners

The Comfortable, Efficient Home
The Not so Big House –Between monster commutes, mammoth homes and gargantuan lawns, many people are struggling to find space for just living. The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka, brings to light a new way of thinking about what makes a place feel like home. Hint: It's got nothing to do with size.

The Old House Web – If you live in a place that is walkable & bikeable you probably live in an older home (at least until they start building livable new places). This is an excellent resource for keeping that old place up to snuff without snuffing out its historic character.

Energy Star –"We're from the government and we're here to help you," is actually true in this case. The Environmental Protection Agency's consumer product website is the motherlode of energy efficient product information. Don't even think about buying a new appliance, furnace or anything that uses energy in the home without stopping here first. The site rates energy use of all appliances which surpass minimum federal standards by 20% or more. The site also includes useful energy calculators and faqs for improving home comfort and efficiency. Perform an energy audit of your home, right from your computer at the Energy Star site http://hes.lbl.gov/.

The Efficient Windows Collaborative – The collaborative with support from the Dept of Energy, helps homeowners understand how windows function, so that they can make informed decisions in purchasing windows.

The US Dept. of Energy– A lot of useful information about more efficient energy use in daily life - home, business, transportation. Most significantly, they have resources for accessing home help funds for low-income folks in need of weatherization assistance.

Home Energy Magazine – Written for the performance-minded home remodeler, both professional and consumer. It has most of their articles up through 2000 archived in a searchable database online.

Wisconsin Focus on Energy Site – Wisconsinites can find financial incentives for efficiency upgrades and renewable energy at the Wisconsin Focus on Energy site.

Working Assets and Co-op America– A plug-n-play guide for socially and environmentally conscious consumers to divine corporate responsibility. You can divine corporate policy on issues from sweatshop labor to pollution. Energy isn't the only thing we should be saving.

back to top ^

Clean lawns, quiet mowing
The silent reel lawn mower is one of the 10 greatest, most environmentally friendly tools ever devised. Powered by metabolic energy and made efficient by momentum, this thing will cut your grass just as nicely as the standard air & noise polluting mower. According to the EPA, one hour of motorized mower use is the equivalent of driving 400 miles in a V-10 SUV. Power tools such as mowers, blowers & throwers account for 5% of smog in the US. The new silent push mowers aren't the clunky contraptions grampa had in the garage either. Expect a nice cut, easy pushing and clean air from these babies.

Business Week's take on push-mowers – a great user friendly guide & overview of the growing silent mower movement

Agri-Fab Silent Reel – We have owned three different brands of push mower. Decidedly, the Agri-Fab Silent Reel is the best push mower there is. You pay a little more, but the quality of the machinery & cut is well worth it.

The livable lawn – A commercial site with push mowers, rain barrels, and composters of all types.

back to top ^

Sub-compact fluorescents are the only way to go now that they have been developed to produce a nice soft light. These are not the hazy blue-ish fluorescents of yesteryear. Think of your nicest soft white incandescent; that's the type light these put off. They fit just about anywhere the old incandescents do. And they last 10 times longer yet consume a mere 1/4 the energy of comparable incandescents. Payback is measured in months (try matching that in the stock market!)

Department of Energy Specifications – Some local hardware stores and discounters are starting to carry these bulbs, but be careful! Make sure that they conform to the Dept of Energy specifications

AbleLight USA, Inc.– Sells sub-cfl's in small batches and bulk at a great price and good service.

Mule Lighting – Provides great emergency lighting efficiency solutions for both new and retrofit. Emergency lighting in exit signs is a major drain of electricity. In older fixtures, two incandescent bulbs fry 40 watts per hour, every hour, every day, every year, etc. Mule has retrofit bulbs that will burn just 2.4 watts per hour, last practically forever and produce virtually no heat. Payback is measured in months, especially when you consider the amount of labor saved not changing them out every few months.

back to top ^

Water & Hot Water
Water is becoming quite the hot topic as sources of clean water get depleted and overrun by high consumption habits. Meanwhile, heating hot water constitutes about a third of overall home energy consumption. Much of the energy burned is wasted, up the flue or just from standing around hot but unused. Tankless water heaters have long been used in energy conscious Europe and Asia and are now starting to catch on here. Solar, though expensive up front, is benefitting from incentive programs in various states. Here are some sites that will help you keep water consumption in perspective.

Save Water – Get the latest news on national water conservation issues. This site is backed by Energy Technology Laboratories, an outfit that has their heart is in the right place & efforts are going in the right direction.

The Home Energy Magazine – is an excellent lay readers guide to all things hot water heating. This article explains basic water heater function with an eye toward maintaining maximum efficiency. It also provides all the pro's & con's of tank vs. tankless water heaters as well as how to configure the plumbing for maximum efficiency. It is a tad dated (for example, tankless water heaters have overcome most of the objections raised here), but the basic concepts presented here continue to hold.

Energy Technology Laboratories – A high quality line of water conservation products. The shower is so luxurious that you won't even know you are conserving! Water and water heating bills will plummet with these ultra-low flow showers and aerators. Their secret lies in mixing the water and air in a way that doesn't make you feel like you are using a low-flow product (nor does it take your skin off like the old low-flow models!).

Terry Love – This is the kind of site I love, witty, passionate and informative–about toilets! This plumber extraordinaire, is way into his toilets–the ones that work and use very little water. If you currently have a 3.5 gallon per flush (or greater) water hog, expect to save at least $100 per year (probably more in arid areas) following Terry's advice.

back to top ^

Flappin' in the Breeze
The cheapest, most effective solar and wind powered system is the clothesline. Line drying clothes is practical, convivial and refreshing–and, did I mention?– Cheap. Here are some great sites with great ideas and products for giving your clothes a break from the abuse of machine drying.

Flappin' in the Breeze – Here it is: the zen of line drying clothes! The philosophy of life on the line! The fun of lettin' it all hang out!

The Happy Hippie – Speaking of hanging out, the Happy Hippie has some very practical advice on how to live without a machine clothes dryer.

The Old Farmer's Almanac – Takes a new look at line drying with a bit of practical how-to.

Clotheslines and Community – An essay on clotheslines from a co-housing listserv.

Everyday Wonders for a Healthier Planet – The clothesline is one of the seven wonderful tools for a healthier planet according to John C. Ryan.

The Clothesline in Canada – The clothesline, a sense of home and clean air are brought together in this short essay from Canada.

Everlast Pulleys – Ideal for setting up a simple backyard drying system.

The Sunline – The retractable clothesline is what we have been using frequently for the past 7 years to make the most of our postage stamp backyard.

ArtWeger – ArtWeger has a large selection of indoor clothes drying racks for winter and rainy days. Our favorite is the superdry.

back to top ^

Healthy Homes
Oikos – A wealth of green building news with developments in the private sector as well as public policy toward a greener home.

Home*a*syst – A University of Wisconsin-Extension program designed to help reduce toxics risks in the home from hazardous chemicals, drinking water and paint.

Engineering Services – Provides Home Efficiency Rating System checks of new and older homes in southern Wisconsin.

back to top ^

Renewable Energy for the Home
We've put this at the end of the living section for a reason: Solar energy is expensive and only truly effective if strong home performance measures have been put in place. Most American homes & personal habits require too much energy for solar energy to be a viable alternative. Most people shouldn't even consider solar power until they have gotten their total home electric consumption well below 75 kilowatthours/adult/month (add another 50 kwh/kid/month). Home performance measures would need to bring total annual combined energy usage (gas, electric) below $500/year for solar to begin to make sense.

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association – After you've made your home as energy efficient as it can be, consider researching alternative energy sources. This is one of the best places to start.

WisconSun – Promoting photovoltaic solar in conjunction with federal and state incentives.

Solar Water Heating Facts – The Dept of Energy's site for solar water heating, complete with factsheets and useful links to related sites.

The Millionsolar Roofs – All the latest news on progress on getting more solar panels across the country.

Natural Resources Canada – The Canadian EPA, (eh!) has a wealth of information on solar energy and advanced woodburning technologies.

Solar Wonks only! – Get the latest developments in renewables at the Renewable Energy Policy Project site.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory – Fun reading to get a perspective on where a different national energy policy might lead us. The site has lots of good links to other organizations around the world doing research and promoting renewable energy. Very tech-oriented. Energy efficiency (except for driving more energy efficient cars more miles) doesn't figure much into their world view, as is evidenced by the fact that they are located in a highly un-sustainable sprawl location– beyond walking, biking, and transit. A recent attempt to get their research workers to leave their cars at home flopped!

Sourceguide – provides a worldwide directory of solar energy equipment suppliers and installers.

Energy Matters – If you are really getting into the solar thing, Energy Matters would be a good one to peruse. Dozens of alternative (and not so alternative) energy equipment providers are listed and described here.

Creative Energy Technologies – An online catalog of energy efficiency and alternative energy products. We like their emphasis on energy efficiency before going into solar or wind energy systems. We have no experience dealing with them, however.

Wood Heat Organization – Discover how wood heat, properly designed and installed, can be an environmentally friendly, fun & cozy way to keep warm. This site is a gem, obviously a work of passion and well-grounded in research.

Hearthnet – Lots of resources for those getting into woodheating. Stove ratings, user forums and industry news are on offer here. This is a slightly more commercial & detached venture than the Wood Heat Organization site, but useful nonetheless.

back to top ^